The Question Of Authority

Chaitanya Jyothi Museum Opening, 2000

In the Name of The Father, and of The Son and of The Holy Spirit, Amen.



Blue-Green Glacial Melt, Glacier NP
Blue-Green Glacial Melt, Glacier NP

Since the late 1960s, at least, I have thought that the central vexation of the era is the question of authority, and specifically, the location of authority.

Here is a round-up of others’ efforts at that question:

Daniel Hannan, A Lesson in Newspeak

Scott Johnson, Berns on Berrigan

Michael Walsh, Got Hate? Part Deux: The Return of Tanya Cohen

My comment at Reynolds’ Instapundit: Were I a professor of law, theology, moral philosophy, ethics or political science, I would use this girl’s essay here as entry to the question of the location of authority. She puts it, variously (i.e., with imprecision), in international laws, UN documents, governments, NGOs she likes and human rights (as defined by international laws and NGOs she likes). None of those locations of authority was mentioned at Gettysburg. None involve the polis, the civitas, the US or States Constitutions and statutes, municipal codes, ecclesial laws and traditions, secular traditions. Nor does she mention the authority of mothers and fathers and their children. Or of an individual self. So where does authority lie? She begs the question most admirably if not also piteously.

My comment at Walsh’s Unexamined Premises: Everything has a use, including evil. The girl raises the question, eminently worth raising now and then, of the location of authority. Her mother did not love her.

Lee Cary, The AT Readers’ Complete Lexicon of Political Speech

Ed Driscoll, It’s All A Matter Of Perspective

William A. Jacobson, Dershowitz Presumed Innocent In Zero-Sum Defamation Game

Judi McLeod, U.S. Conference Of Catholic Bishops Financially Supporting Anti-Cop Protests

Scott Johnson, Back To The Future

Aleister, University In Poland Restores PhDs Confiscated From Jews Under Nazi Germany and here

Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, On The Catholic Man-Crisis And What To Do About It, and a Washington Compost juvenile reports here

Ashe Schow, More Evidence Colleges Are Bad At Adjudicating Sexual Assault: Accuser Lawsuits

Allum Bokhari, Civil War Brewing For The Cultural Left (a particularly enlightening essay)

Update 1: Shame in Wisconsin.

Update 2: From Power LineScience and Scientism

Update 3: Glenn Greenwald, when he’s right, he’s right:

The parallels between the U.K.’s shocking approval of the Brexit referendum in June and the U.S.’ even more shocking election of Donald Trump as president last night are overwhelming.  Elites (outside of populist right-wing circles) aggressively unified across ideological lines in opposition to both.  Supporters of Brexit and Trump were continually maligned by the dominant media narrative (validly or otherwise) as primitive, stupid, racist, xenophobic, and irrational.  In each case, journalists who spend all day chatting with one another on Twitter and congregating in exclusive social circles in national capitals — constantly re-affirming their own wisdom in an endless feedback loop — were certain of victory.  Afterward, the elites whose entitlement to prevail was crushed devoted their energies to blaming everyone they could find except for themselves, while doubling down on their unbridled contempt for those who defied them, steadfastly refusing to examine what drove their insubordination.  The indisputable fact is that prevailing institutions of authority in the West, for decades, have relentlessly and with complete indifference stomped on the economic welfare and social security of hundreds of millions of people. . . .  Trump vowed to destroy the system that elites love (for good reason) and the masses hate (for equally good reason), while Clinton vowed to manage it more efficiently.

Update 4: Professor Roberto de Mattei: Resistance And Fidelity To The Church In Times Of Crisis

Update 5: Over the past two years the increasingly skeptical citizenry of the United States and Europe has been treated to a stream of op-eds and television appearances lamenting the looming collapse of the liberal world order, to be accompanied by a surge of illiberalism, nationalism, and fringe politics. Rarely, however, does such hand-wringing stray beyond shopworn comparisons of the “complex interdependence” of the glorious past and the parochialism and narrow-mindedness of the current era. In truth, we are not witnessing a dramatic systemic change driven by conniving external forces, but a meltdown of political authority in the West caused by the relatively straightforward indolence of its political class. Our troubles are less about liberalism’s decline or the ascendancy of left or right politics. Simply put, the citizenry in the West has been frustrated for decades with its elites’ inability to deliver workable solutions to the problems of slow growth, deindustrialization, immigration, and the overall decline of self-confidence across the West.

The legitimacy, and hence stability, of the international system rests to a degree on the ability of the leading powers to deliver at home—or, simply put, to govern. The increasing volatility of international politics is in part a byproduct of systemic dysfunction across the West at the level of domestic politics. Americans and Europeans alike are running out of patience with the governing class. In Europe, the government’s inability to control mass migration or develop effective solutions to domestic terrorism are two important drivers of the growing public discontent. In the United States the middle and working classes have been frustrated for decades with the government’s inability to remedy de-industrialization, urban decay, and declining economic opportunity.

Glenn Reynolds comments: And in both places, as the “elite” has grown demonstrably less competent and honest, it has also grown visibly more contemptuous of the people it purports to govern. That contempt is, I think, the most poisonous part of the whole equation.

My essays on the question of authority are here.

Update 6: As stated in the first sentence of this post, the question of authority and its location is the central one of this era.  Here from Glenn Reynolds is more evidence of the accuracy of that observation.


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